Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Science and Art?

Here are some short(ish) videos that relate art and science (or do they?) that might help get you thinking about the next project:

Mark Dion  - This is an interesting Art 21 featuring Mark Dion talking articulately about his ideas and his work. 

Wil Delvoye's Poop Machine - This is a short segment from a European TV show that's good for a laugh, but it also presents art (yes, this is real) that is related to science. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


Glowing Bunnies: Why They Matter

By James Hamblin

(University of Hawaii School of Medicine)

The transgenic bunnies were born last week. They are expected to live long, productive rabbit lives. They are not evil; they just glow bright green under a black light. They do not portend apocalypse, but rather a potential for great good.
The road to their creation began years ago. Dr. Stefan Moisyadi works with transposing DNA vectors at the University of Hawaii School of Medicine, where glowing mice were created in the 1980s. Now he's at the head of the rabbit project—though this time the birth took place in Istanbul, as part of a collaboration with Turkish researchers.
SHARK300200.jpg(University of Hawaii)

The idea is that scientists inject genetic material into rabbit embryos, and they want to see that it becomes a part of their genetic makeup. The glowing green is not an end in itself, but a marker that their technique is working. The protein that creates the glow comes from jellyfish DNA (which was injected into the rabbit embryo).
Moisyadi told Hawaii local news channel KHON, "These rabbits are like a light bulb glowing, like an LED light all over their body. And on top of it, their fur is beginning to grow and the greenness is shining right through their fur. It’s so intense."
Light bulb, LED light—the opportunities for creative imagery are numerous. It's like an overflowing bin of potential words.
Since the jellyfish gene codes for a natural protein, Moisyadi et al. don't have reason to suspect that their rabbits are harmed by the experimentation. “They live just as long as normal animals do. I can tell you from the mice [which have since been conducted at places like Caltech] they show no ill effects.”
SHARK300200.jpg(Mayo Clinic)

If we learned anything from Rudolph (the "red-nosed" reindeer), the transgenic bunnies may be socially excluded at a young age, but the experience will be formative, and they will grow to be celebrated by the rabbit leader.
In 2011, the same technique created glowing kittens as part of an HIV research project. In a collaboration between the Mayo Clinic and Yamaguchi University, the researchers reported in the journal Nature Methods that the cats not only glowed but, more importantly, were resistant to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
They also showed no signs of ill health or evil behavior.
This sort of genetic manipulation can be applied to research on genetic diseases and, as they prove that it works in larger animals, Moisyadi hopes, "create bio-reactors that basically produce pharmaceuticals that can be made a lot cheaper."
"Let's say for some patients who suffer from hemophilia and they need the blood clotting enzymes, we can make those enzymes a lot cheaper in animals with barrier reactives rather than a factory that will cost billions of dollars to build," Moisyadi told Hawaii news outlet KITV.
Still international collaborations are standard for this sort of research. “At home, there is this hysteria that transgenic animals should not be used for anything," Moisyadi said. His eyes are on the future, though, which could include glowing transgenic "sheep, cows, and even pigs.” The first lamb is expected in November.
For more on the ethical debate, check out Sophie Cocke's story today at Civil Beat.
This article available online at:

Olafur Eliasson- the blind passager

Happening Today and this Week

Today, Tuesday, February 18 from 5-7pm in Hamilton is the Opening Reception for the inaugural Faculty Exhibition. Come for the free food and see some of the artwork of your professors. 


Tomorrow, Wednesday, February 19 at PAFA, there will be a critic Review Panel that you can attend for free, but you must register. From the website: 

"Inspired by the popular series of New York-based public programs founded in 2004 at the National Academy Museum and moderated by David Cohen, The Review PanelPhiladelphia will discuss four local exhibitions, which were chosen in advance by Cohen and his invited panelists, Monica Amor, Jennie Hirsh, Kevin Richards.

The Review Panel Philadelphia, hosted by PAFA in association with artcritical.com, is a yearly series of four panel discussions hosted by New York critic, arts writer and founder of the Review Panel, David Cohen. The series aims to increase exposure of and provide critic commentary on contemporary art exhibitions in Philadelphia.
These events are free to the public, but registration is required. Early arrival to this event is encouraged."
Register Here: https://community.pafa.org/reviewpanel/Feb19

Thursday, February 20, come see Alexander Rosenberg & Rebecca Saylor Sack talk about their work from 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m in CBS Auditorium (Hamilton). 


You can get this kind of info and more by liking "Interdisciplinary Fine Arts/UArts" on Facebook. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Larry Rohter on the Act of Killing

The New York Times

July 12, 2013

A Movie’s Killers Are All Too Real

Early in “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer’s startling new documentary about mass murder and impunity in Indonesia, a death squad leader named Anwar Congo, dapper in white pants and a lime-green shirt, demonstrates how he strangled hundreds of people with wire. It was quicker and less messy than beating them to death, he explains matter-of-factly, then breaks into a dance routine, performing the cha cha cha for the camera.
“The Act of Killing,” which opens on Friday, is crammed with unsettlingly bizarre moments like that, blending the horrific and the absurd in a disturbing cocktail. Time after time, the killers joke and brag about their deeds, which earns them applause on an Indonesian TV talk show, praise from officials in the government in power today and condemnation from the human rights groups that want to see them brought to justice.
But Mr. Oppenheimer’s film, which counts Werner Herzog and Errol Morris as its executive producers and was made by a largely Indonesian crew, is also stirring controversy because of its unorthodox form. Re-enactments are always a source of disagreement in the documentary world, but Mr. Oppenheimer has taken that longstanding debate to a new level by encouraging the perpetrators of human rights abuses to restage their crimes, on film and for a global audience.
“I think it’s our obligation as filmmakers, as people investigating the world, to create the reality that is most insightful to the issues at hand,” Mr. Oppenheimer, 38, said in a recent interview. “Here are human beings, like us, boasting about atrocities that should be unimaginable. And the question is: Why are they doing this? For whom are they doing this? What does it mean to them? How do they want to be seen? How do they see themselves? And this method was a way of answering those questions.”
The events initially addressed in “The Act of Killing” are little known in the West: the slaughter of as many as a million people in Indonesia following the military’s seizure of power there in 1965. The victims were labeled Communists but included labor leaders, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals, with paramilitary groups carrying out the killings at the behest of the Indonesian Army and with the support of the United States and its allies, who worried that Indonesia, like Vietnam, would fall into Communist hands.
In Indonesia, the killings were “a kind of open secret, kept discreetly hidden so that if you wanted to, you could pretend it wasn’t happening,” said John Roosa, a scholar of Indonesian history at the University of British Columbia and the author of “Pretext for Mass Murder,” the leading book about the 1965 massacres. “So this film has become a provocation, an impetus for Indonesians to go back to the perpetrators and say, ‘Tell us exactly what happened.’ ”
Organized killings occurred all across Indonesia, the world’s fourth most-populous country, but Mr. Oppenheimer focuses on Medan, a large city in northern Sumatra. There a group of so-called “movie gangsters,” fans of John Wayne and Marlon Brando, as well as of mafia and American B-movies, did much of the killing, inspired in part by the films they loved.
Mr. Congo, the focus of the documentary, tells of seeing an Elvis Presley movie, then skipping across the street, “still in the mood of the film,” to the roof of the building where he would garrote his victims. “It was like we were killing happily,” he tells Mr. Oppenheimer.
Born in Texas, educated at Harvard and now based in Europe, Mr. Oppenheimer is a constant presence in “The Act of Killing,” always outside the frame but asking questions of the killers in their native tongue, which he picked up working on films like “The Globalisation Tapes,” and being addressed by them. He said the decision to stage the re-enactments emerged as a logical extension of his initial interviews with some 40 death squad members. They had a natural theatricality, he said, which led him to offer to underwrite and film their re-enactments of their deeds. The killers did not get a salary but were paid what Mr. Oppenheimer called a “modest per diem” (approved by the University of Westminster and the British Arts and Humanities Research Council, which financed the re-enactments).
“Within minutes of meeting me, they would tell me horrible stories, often boastfully, and would say, ‘How about if we go to the place where I killed people, and I will show you how I did it?’ ” he recalled. “And then they would often lament afterwards, ‘Oh I should have brought a machete along to use as a prop,’ or ‘I should have brought friends along who could play victims, it would have been more cool that way.’ ”
Given free rein, the death squad members molded their performances to fit their favorite film genres. One scene was staged as a western, with Mr. Congo and his comically portly sidekick, Herman Koto, wearing cowboy hats, while others were done as film noir or horror. (In a critic’s notebook, A. O. Scott of The Times wrote that the film “destabilizes our sense of the boundary between make-believe violence and its real-world counterpart.”)
There is even one exceedingly peculiar musical scene, with female dancers gyrating by a waterfall, as “Born Free” plays on the soundtrack and one of Mr. Congo’s victims gratefully places a medal around his killer’s neck, saying, “For executing me and sending me to heaven, I thank you a thousand times.” When Mr. Oppenheimer showed that sequence to Mr. Herzog on his laptop over breakfast at a London hotel, Mr. Herzog immediately decided he wanted to become involved in the film.
“Joshua Oppenheimer is not the inventor of the casual and unbelievable surrealism that seeps into this film from all corners,” he said. “It does not come from him, it is not imposed by him. You watch this, and you know that in a way, it’s real. And yet you cannot believe that reality can take forms as crazy and weird as that.”
Without the staged scenes, “you would end up with a self-righteous, mediocre film you would see on television, a regular issues film, and I say that with venom,” Mr. Herzog continued. “These are precisely the scenes that would be cut” in a conventional documentary.
But those same scenes made the film a hard sell, even to producers and foundations accustomed to difficult material. “No one would fund the re-enactments because either it seemed morally suspect or they seemed impossible,” Mr. Oppenheimer recalled. “One commissioning editor said, ‘I don’t want my strand awash with atrocity.’ I’ll never forget that.”
The questioning has continued at showings of “The Act of Killing” on the international festival circuit. In Berlin, one audience member suggested that what Mr. Oppenheimer had done was “like having SS officers re-enact the Holocaust,” to which he said he replied that “it isn’t, because the Nazis are no longer in power,” whereas the Indonesian death squad members still serve and enjoy the protection of the state.
More than a score of the film’s Indonesian crew members, out of fear of retribution, asked to remain anonymous in the credits. Among them was the co-director, a 41-year-old from a literary family, who spoke by phone from his home in central Java of the personal challenge of the production, which took nearly a decade.
“The most difficult part was to keep your feelings to yourself,” he said. “You feel annoyed, angry. How could these people tell these horrible stories so lightly and so proudly? You just want to challenge them right away. But you have to keep telling yourself to be patient, to let them tell the story the way they like. Because then we can learn something about the whole system of destruction.” Mr. Oppenheimer is working on a follow-up about the victims and their families, who have been harassed or threatened when they speak out.
Initially, Mr. Congo seems an utterly unsympathetic figure, vain and egotistic. Eventually, though, the re-enactments appear to lead Mr. Congo to some sort of remorse and moral awakening.
Or maybe the remorse isn’t genuine. Perhaps it’s just another performance for the camera. After all, Mr. Oppenheimer acknowledged, the title “The Act of Killing” carries a double meaning, referring both to the murders in 1965 and the later performances for the camera. Mr. Congo even reminds himself “my acting must be violent.”
In view of all those issues, it seems pertinent to ask if “The Act of Killing” is a documentary at all. Mr. Morris, who has thought and written about the subject at considerable length, has no doubts.
“Of course it’s a documentary,” he said. “Documentary is not about form, a set of rules that are either followed or not, it’s an investigation into the nature of the real world, into what people thought and why they thought what they thought.”
But Mr. Oppenheimer offered a more nuanced view. He distinguishes between the observational style of the film’s first half and what comes after it pivots to the re-enactments.
“I think it almost stops being a documentary altogether,” he said. “It becomes a kind of hallucinatory aria, a kind of fever dream.” At that point, he added, the film “transcends documentary” and becomes a strange hybrid creation.
But no matter what you call it, Mr. Morris said “The Act of Killing” was a work of art. Prefacing his remarks by saying, “I think I can speak independently of my role as executive producer, because I have no financial interest in this film,” he continued: “The most you can ask from art, really good art, maybe great art, is that it makes you think, it makes you ask questions, makes you wonder about how we know things, how we experience history and know who we are. And there are so many amazing moments like that here.”

Robert Goodman @ Seraphin Gallery


Robert Goodman
March 7 - April 20, 2013
Opening reception: Friday, March 7, 6 - 8 PM

Friday, February 7, 2014

Mentioned in class

Hi all, Aaron here. A lot of names and references can come up during class, and you probably aren't familiar with all of them. I thought it would be fun try to collect and post a few of them here in case you would like to get a quick review or overview; note that not all of these people (and things) are important for this class, but some of them are, and you might find any one of them to be interesting or inspiring.

You can also look through this for a couple of my thoughts that might be helpful for your upcoming projects (specifically Errol Morris, the performance artists, and my simple example of artistic lineage/genealogy). Mostly, I just took the lazy route copying from and posting links to Wikipedia articles, but as these are well known people, the articles are pretty well written.  Hopefully they do just fine as a launching point for anything you intended to look up but forgot to write down.

Art Critics

"Clement Greenberg, occasionally writing under the pseudonym K. Hardesh, (January 16, 1909 – May 7, 1994) was an American essayist known mainly as an influential visual art critic closely associated with American Modern art of the mid-20th century. In particular, he is best remembered for his promotion of the abstract expressionist movement and was among the first published critics to praise the work of painter Jackson Pollock." (Wikipedia)

Obviously, you've read some of his writing by now.

"Susan Sontag (/ˈsɒntɑːɡ/; January 16, 1933 – December 28, 2004) was an American writer and filmmaker, professor, literary icon, and political activist. Beginning with the publication of her 1964 essay "Notes on 'Camp'", Sontag became an international cultural and intellectual celebrity." (Wikipedia)

She was brought up in class when we were talking about photography and Errol Morris (see below under Photographers and Filmmakers).

"Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin (German: [ˈvaltɐ ˈbɛnjamiːn];[1] 15 July 1892 – 26 September 1940)[2] was a German literary critic, philosopher, social critic, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist. Combining elements of German idealism or Romanticism, historical materialism andJewish mysticism, Benjamin made enduring and influential contributions to aesthetic theory and Western Marxism, and is associated with the Frankfurt School." (Wikipedia)

His essay "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" is a very important writing that you should probably familiarize yourself with if you haven't read it or don't know it yet. You can read it online here.

"Barry Schwabsky is the art critic of The Nation. Schwabsky has been writing about art for the magazine since 2005." (The Nation)

A major contemporary art critic. He was mentioned as part of the discussion about how photography changed the nature of images, and how images function in contemporary painting.

"Jerry Saltz (born March 19, 1951) is an American art critic." (Wikipedia)

Another well known (and controversial) contemporary art critic. 


"Bridget Louise Riley CH CBE (born 24 April 1931 in Norwood, London) is an English painter who is one of the foremost exponents of Op art.[1]" (from Wikipedia)

"Jenny Saville (born 1970 in Cambridge, England) is a contemporary British painter and associated with the Young British Artists. She is known for her large-scale painted depictions of naked women. Saville works and lives in Oxford, England.[1]" (from Wikipedia)

"Philip Guston, born Phillip Goldstein (June 27, 1913 – June 7, 1980) was a painter andprintmaker in the New York School, which included many of the abstract expressionists, such asJackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In the late 1960s Guston helped to lead a transition from abstract expressionism to neo-expressionism in painting, abandoning the so-called "pure abstraction" of abstract expressionism in favor of more cartoonish renderings of various personal symbols and objects." (from Wikipedia)

Photographers and Filmmakers

"Eadweard James Muybridge (/ˌɛdwərd ˈmbrɪ/; 9 April 1830 – 8 May 1904, birth name Edward James Muggeridge) was an English photographer important for his pioneering work in photographic studies of motion, and early work in motion-picture projection." (from Wikipedia)

"Anna-Lou "Annie" Leibovitz (/ˈlbəvɪts/; born October 2, 1949) is an American portraitphotographer." (from Wikipedia

"Errol Mark Morris (born February 5, 1948) is an American film director." (Wikipedia)

You might want to look for a extra minute or two at Morris. He was brought up in class for his book Believing is Seeing: Observations on the Mysteries of Photography, which is about "the relationship between photographs and the real world they supposedly record."

The first film made by Errol Morris was The Thin Blue Line, a 1988 documentary about a man who at that time was serving a life imprisonment sentence for a crime he did not commit in 1976; the release of this film eventually led to that man's release. The trailer:

Besides this extraordinary achievement, the film is also credited with "pioneering the style of modern crime-scene reenactments." Here is a NY Times article where Morris writes about reenactment, citing this movie: Play it Again Sam (Re-enactments, Part One)

Morris is therefore well known for looking at the past for clues like a detective, and trying to reimagine or reenact it. Sound similar to an assignment in this class to anyone? 

Darkon was a documentary film mentioned in class about LARPing (Live-Action Role-Playing), another re-enactment related activity. Here is the trailer:

Performance Artists

"John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, writer, and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential American composers of the 20th century.[1][2][3][4] He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.[5][6]
Cage is perhaps best known for his 1952 composition 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound; musicians who present the work do nothing aside from being present for the duration specified by the title. The content of the composition is not "four minutes and 33 seconds of silence," as is sometimes assumed, but rather the sounds of the environment heard by the audience during performance.[7][8] The work's challenge to assumed definitions about musicianship and musical experience made it a popular and controversial topic both in musicology and the broader aesthetics of art and performance." (Wikipedia)

"Mercier Philip "Merce" Cunningham (April 16, 1919–July 26, 2009) was an American dancer and choreographer who was at the forefront of the American avant-garde for more than 50 years." (Wikipedia)

Here is a brief video showing a Cage and Cunningham collaboration, and a NY Times video about Cunningham, explaining his significance and showing some more of the dance he choreographed:

"Allan Kaprow (August 23, 1927 – April 5, 2006) was an American painterassemblagist and a pioneer in establishing the concepts of performance art. He helped to develop the "Environment" and "Happening" in the late 1950s and 1960s, as well as their theory." (Wikipedia)

From this short online article: 
" ... [Kaprow] described art museums in Arts Magazine in 1967 (quoted here in The New Yorker from November of the same year): “a fuddy-duddy remnant from another era… Modern museums should be turned into swimming pools and night clubs… or emptied and left as environmental sculptures.”
Just in cast you can’t guess where Kaprow was coming from, his essay was titled “Death in the Museum.” Art, it seemed, was dead, and museums were graveyards. But Happenings were alive and well, and that’s what mattered." (Allan Kaprow and the History of Happenings)

(Most of Kaprow's Happenings where undocumented, but here is an image from one in Ithaca, NY, near Cornell University in 1964)

(SIMPLE EXAMPLE OF ARTISTIC GENEALOGY: Rebecca mentioned that you should try to learn about the artistic genealogy of the artists you are researching. If any of you saw the Dancing Around the Bride show at the Philadelphia Museum of Art last year, you saw an example of this, as the show was based on the genealogy of Marcel Duchamp (in other words, the artists like John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg who were strongly inspired by Duchamp, and based much of their work on his ideas). Allan Kaprow was once a student of John Cage, and was clearly strongly influenced by his ideas; an artistic lineage of Duchamp-Cage-Kaprow could therefore be constructed. But keep in mind that artists find inspiration in many different places, so mapping out these influences could be much more complex.)

Also Mentioned

Vermeer in Bosnia, a book by Lawrence Weschler

White Light/Black Rain an HBO documentary about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Michel Foucault's term "heterotopia" (good luck understanding this one, I'm still not sure that I do)